Cannabis legalisation: "We're not advocating the consumption of cannabis. This is about trying to come up with a better solution to a social problem, which manifests itself in various strata of society, by using a different approach." Is change in the air in Berlin? Read more about it here.
Does the no-tolerance policy apply to cannabis patients too?
Two days before the Global Marijuana March in Berlin, the ‘Potheads against racism!’ (‘Kiffer*innen gegen Rassismus!’) called for another joint consumption event. Earlier, they had organised a smoke in at the grass dealing hotspot on 1 April. At 4.20pm on the dot, when the first joint was lit, some 50 people had gathered and were able to send up smoke signals (as yet) undisturbed. By 5pm over one hundred people had turned up. There was a relaxed atmosphere at the event attended by people from all walks of life, dealers, a few tourists, people from various media, and even representatives of the pirate party who had set up an information stand and were hard at work handing out hemp seeds, of the variety of which 700 plants had shot up at Kottbusser Tor, only to be very rapidly mown down again. These legal hemp seeds apparently provoked the dozen or so officers to test the legal status of the visibly surprised pirates and their seeds. In Germany, hemp seeds are legal. Sale and distribution of hemp seeds, however, is only permitted, according to the law, in “innumerable amounts”. The smoke-in had already dissipated before the inspection started, at around 5pm. At 5.15pm cannabis patient Pino W. arrived in the park and was asked by the exzessiv.tv team for a spontaneous interview.
Cannabis-Patient Pino W booked
Pino is in possession of a certificate of exemption from the Federal Opium Agency allowing him to legally buy cannabis from the Netherlands in a German pharmacy. Because of his illness, Pino is permitted to consume cannabis wherever other people are permitted to smoke cigarettes. After the first question, Pino – who has to consume 3.5g cannabis daily – lit a joint, because, he said, he was nervous in front of the camera, and could not concentrate on the questions. Thereupon, the officers, who until then had only had eyes for the pirates’ hemp seeds, ordered him to put out his joint. Pino is used to this kind of reaction.
Actually, when this happens, I just have to show my permit. After that the police are usually very friendly and leave me in peace,”
he explained later.
Apparently that’s not how it works in Görlitzer Park, where the police are held to implementing the new zero-tolerance policy of the Berlin senator for the interior. Since April, the otherwise relatively liberal cannabis regulation for Berlin, under which possession of 10-15g is not normally punished, has no longer applied to the Görlitzer Park area. After the permit, which was perfectly in order, had been inspected, Pino was searched. His legally obtained cannabis for medicinal use, bearing a stamp from the Dutch Ministry of Health, for which he had to pay more than €15 out of pocket, was confiscated, and the cannabis patient was booked for a violation of the Narcotics Act. Despite his pleas, the officers would not contact a doctor, to assess the situation. Following consultation with his station, the police officer who acted as the spokesperson for the police said he was certain he was handling the matter correctly, not because the permit was invalid, but, he said, because it was not valid in public spaces, patient or not, and that patients were supposed to take their medicine at home.
Smoking ban for legal medicine
Are cannabis patients who have to take their medicine several times a day supposed to stay at home? The smoking ban already restricts the amount of places that Pino is permitted to take his medicine. Just in order to be mobile, a cannabis patient has to be able to inhale out and about, whether or not a zero-tolerance policy applies for Görli. In any case, the new strategy imposed by Frank Henkel, the Berlin senator for the interior, has created a truly interesting situation, as his regulation, which is constitutionally debatable anyway, clashes with the exemption certificate issued by the Federal Opium Agency. If Pino W. really has violated the law, under the new regulation a sentence awaits him. Pino estimates that his box contained about another 1.5g (legal) cannabis. When you ask the Berlin police how cannabis patients are supposed to behave in public spaces, the answer is:
[…] it is possible that in exceptional cases an officer is unable, due to the large amount of information, to correctly assess a specific case decisively. You are therefore urged to always carry your certificate of exemption with you, just in case it is needed in exceptional situations.”
Pino W. has now had to call on legal aid, as his legal medicine has not yet been returned to him, and he remains booked.
In connection with the current discussion about cannabis legalisation in Germany, which was even covered by the Washington Times, there were swarms of press at the Global Marijuana March in Berlin on 16 May 2015. Nonetheless, unlike the crowds that attended the Hanfparade last year, only 300-400 participants turned up at this event. Because of it, the GMM in Berlin looked more like one of those intimate and spontaneous events organised by the Berlin cannabis scene than the large-scale Hanfparade, which is planned way in advance. It was therefore no surprise that the march started at Warschauer Straße, a well-known cannabis hotspot, and continued through the general pothead area, to finish at Weinbergspark in the Prenzlauer Berg borough. Until a few years ago, grass was openly sold and consumed on the common between Kastanienallee and Brunnenstraße. However, the neighbourhood launched a serious complaint, upon which the police put a stop to the merry proceedings. Unfortunately, the GMM, with only a few hundred potheads, didn’t come close to tapping the full potential of German’s cannabis capital. On the other hand, 24 smaller towns across Germany participated in the event for the first time. Undeniably, it requires a lot more courage to admit to cannabis use in smaller towns such as Weiden in Bavaria, Plauen in Sachsen or Kempten in the Allgäu, than it does in Berlin. In the capital it was hardly noticeable that the legalisation movement has been gaining momentum. Even Würzburg, Ulm and Dortmund managed to mobilise more people. And in Rio, where cannabis is a lot more illegal than in Germany, well over 100.000 people attended this year’s event.
Cannabis: Hot topic in Berlin’s elections
The Berlin branch of the SPD, the Social Democrats, could put cannabis on the agenda for the upcoming elections if they adopt a resolution to that effect by a party member from the Berlin central district at their upcoming party conference. The FPD, the Liberal Democrats, have cuddled up to cannabis as well, as two-thirds of the delegates at their Berlin party conference called for the regulation of cannabis distribution. The establishment of some sort of a coffee shop model is moving forward as well, albeit slowly. The past few weeks, even the Christian Democrats of the CDU in Berlin seemed to be telling a different story through Joachim Pfeiffer, the spokesman for economic affairs in the national parliament, the Bundestag. Together with Dieter Janecek from the Grünen (green party), he demanded cannabis regulation:
We’re not advocating the consumption of cannabis. This is about trying to come up with a better solution to a social problem, which manifests itself in various strata of society, by using a different approach,”
Pfeiffer said on the ARD, the “German BBC 1”: However, the black-green weed initiative should probably be seen as a useful election soundbite for Pfeiffer, rather than an expression of the wishes of the majority of the CDU party. Nevertheless, in Germany, in the capital especially, change seems to be in the air.